Venezuela blocks border as Maduro tries to keep troops on side

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the need for aid. AAP

Venezuela's government on Friday said the United States should distribute humanitarian aid in Colombia where it is being stockpiled, while the opposition warned that blocking much-needed food and medicine could constitute crimes against humanity.

The Venezuelan military has barricaded the bridge at the border crossing between the two countries in a bid to block the aid from passing.

At the same time, Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan National Assembly leader recognized as the country's rightful leader by more than 30 governments, was attacking Maduro for refusing to admit the supplies and called for street protests Tuesday.

Maduro has overseen an economic collapse in the oil-rich OPEC country that has left many Venezuelans malnourished and struggling to find medicine, sparking the exodus of an estimated 3 million Venezuelans.

"Inhibiting the entry of this aid could be seen as a crime against humanity".

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has rejected the "partisan and ideological nature" of the EU-backed International Contact Group on Venezuela, which recently vowed to ensure a "credible" new election in his country. Dozens of political parties that make up Venezuela's opposition have failed to mount a viable political challenge.

In an ironic twist, a Venezuelan navy ship laden with equipment sent by Maduro's government to help Cuba rebuild after a tornado hit Havana last month arrived in the city's port on Friday, Cuban state media reported.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores acknowledge supporters at the end of a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 2, 2019. On Friday, Romania's president became the latest world leader to recognize Guaido as interim president nearly a week after other European Union countries did so.

On Monday, Canada hosted a meeting of the Lima Group regional bloc to discuss how the global community can further help the people of Venezuela, including through immediate humanitarian assistance.

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"We are in the immediate position to support any action that promotes diplomacy, dialogue and meeting between Venezuelans", said the president.

And he said a first attempt to bring in the aid should be made next week.

The boxes of emergency aid came from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and are marked with USAID labels. He's offered to try to resolve the political impasse in a dialogue with opposition leaders, which critics call a stalling tactic that has failed to lead to any changes.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton first raised alarm about deploying USA forces to the region when he carried a notepad with a handwritten notation saying "5,000 troops to Colombia" during a news briefing about Venezuela oil sanctions. Maduro also claimed that a group of Venezuelan military defectors were conspiring in Colombia to "divide the national armed forces at my command".

It's unclear what will break the standoff playing out at the Venezuela-Colombia border.

Guaido said the military has to decide whether to "take the side of the constitution" or to "continue on the side of an increasingly isolated dictator".

Guaido says the constitution allows him to assume power, set up a transitional government and hold new elections - one of his key demands that has received widespread global support.

Guaido has actively courted members of the military with promises of amnesty and preferential legal treatment if they disavow Maduro and disobey his orders, and Washington this week raised the prospect of dropping sanctions on senior Venezuelan officers if they recognize Guaido.

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